Monday, March 31, 2008

Slogging through Sunday

I woke up at 7:00 AM and heated a cup off coffee in the microwave. I turned on the radio (Sunday Morning, Over Easy) and went in to recount yesterday's adventures for the Blog.

I wanted some breakfast, but didn't want to thaw out bacon and had no pork sausage on hand. However, I did have a bagful of those little "smokies" I'd bought as an appetizer a while back, in the freezer. So, I thawed out a handful of them. When they were ready, I put some bacon grease in a skillet and warmed them up in that. Then I made two eggs, over-easy and two pieces of rye toast. Thus fortified, I began the day.

Having cleaned the oven the other day, I now cleaned the stove top, drip pans, and grates and so on. I finished that and immediately moved on to cleaning Newt's tank, replacing the filter element and I put in two new plastic plants (just to give him a change of scenery). I finished up and had him back in his home by 1:30 PM.

Switching gears, I started cleaning the house, first vacuuming the living room rug and the walk-off rugs, then changing to the electric sweeper for the wood and kitchen floors. I dry mopped all the wood floors (with the mop sprayed with Endust and shaken, frequently) and then wet mopped the back room, downstairs bath and the kitchen with Pine-Sol and hot water. I finished up just before 4:00 PM and decided to take a break and call my Mom.

She and Cora had Easter dinner with my brother Joe and his wife, Kathy. She said dinner was great, although not as many people as usual. My brother Carl and Cal came over on Saturday to install another grab bar in the bathroom. The big news from that part of the family is that Carl's second oldest son, Chris, and his wife, Sheri, will be having a baby this summer (their first).

Then, I set the alarm for 6:00 PM and took a nap. Both my back and knees were hurting when I awoke.

Dinner was supposed to be fish and chips, but when I checked my "root cellar", I only had only one Russet potato left. Since I'd already thawed out four tilapia filets, it's gotta be fish and "something," though! So I made oven roasted baby redskin potatoes, instead. I had about 12 left, so I scrubbed them and cut them in half. I put them in a big bowl along with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Rosemary, four cloves of garlic, minced, 1/4 cup of olive oil and mixed them together to coat the potatoes. I put them on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet. They went into a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes (or fork tender).

I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe for the fish (Jake and Carla swear by it). I whisked together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl; I transferred 3/4 cup of the dry mixture to a cookie sheet. I added one teaspoon baking powder to the original bowl and whisked it to combine.

Meanwhile, I thoroughly dried the fish with paper towels and dredged each piece in the flour mixture on the cooking sheet and then transferred the pieces to a wire rack, shaking off the excess flour.

I added 1 1/4 cups of cold beer to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and stirred until the mixture was just combined (batter will be a bit lumpy). I added the remaining beer as needed, one tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter fell from the whisk in a thin, steady stream and left a faint trail across surface of batter.

Using tongs, I dipped a piece of fish in the batter and let the excess run off, shaking gently. I put the battered fish back onto the cookie sheet with the flour mixture and turned to coat both sides. I repeated the procedure with all the remaining fish, keeping the pieces in a single layer on another cookie sheet.

I put canola oil about halfway up in my Dutch oven. When the oil reached 375 degrees, I added the battered fish to oil with tongs, gently shaking off excess flour. I did three pieces at a time, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, (7 to 8 minutes).

Had dinner plated by 7:50. Fish was excellent, BTW. Would have been better (or at least more authentic) if I'd used cod, I suppose, but tilapia was all I had. Best part about this recipe (certainly NOT the cleanup, lol!) was how tightly the breading stuck to the fish. Perfect! I watched my usual shows until 10:30 PM, and then switched to my book. I turned off the light at 11:30.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

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Lawn Tractor, Jacked Up!

Saturday with a little seasoning

I woke up at 7:00 AM and made coffee. Sitting in the office, I noticed I could hear the birds chirping outside. I posted the Blog entry and then called in the prescriptions I need to pick up today at CVS. I stripped the bed and threw the bedding in the washer.

This weekend is all about getting small projects or chores done. They seem to have been accumulating and I want to get them out of the way before the outdoor season starts.

I started by planning my weekend ToDo list. I threw the bedding in the dryer, and put the next load in washer. I put on my old therapy sweatshirt and sweatpants (to ward off the cold) and went out to the garage. I lay on the cement floor and removed the lawn mower blades. This took some doing (mainly to break the nuts free) and would lead me to suspect that they used air tools when they assembled the mower.

I put the best looking blade in the car and went in to shower and dress. I headed out on a rather short errand run. The first place I went to was the new super-size Walmart's. Back when I first moved here, I went to the old Walmart's once and vowed, "Never again!" The old store's aisles were very narrow, people were jammed everywhere, there were only two checkout lanes and, while the prices were good, I just didn't like the whole experience.

But this one is much, much better! Bigger aisles, a whole food section (which saved me a trip to Meijer's or Kroger's for a dozen eggs). There are still a lot of people, but this store has enough checkout lanes to accommodate them. "I'll be back!"

I have been looking for a deal on a 4-quart round slow cooker for some time now ("crocodiling" as B___ calls it) and found a Hamilton Beach one here, with the removable inside, for under $16! So, while it wasn't on the list, in the cart it went.

Now, why, with having the beautiful oval 6-quart slow cooker Lu gave me a while back, do I want this? The big one is, well, too big for just me. I have to put in way more ingredients to fill it than I usually can eat, even with leftovers. I had a small one (the old family one from years ago) that I foolishly threw it away when I got the new one. But, now I can use the big one for big dinners and the small one for weekend meals for just me.

Next was a visit to Home Depot. I spent a long time looking, but could not find any matching mower blades, not even their "universal" ones. I am a little nervous about that, but will try Sears sometime next week. They usually have a lot of this sort of stuff. If not, I'll have to find a Troy-Built parts distributor, I guess. Thankfully, they did have the sink parts I needed.

I got home and changed clothes, ate a quick sandwich and started on the rest of the list. First, I cleaned off the work bench in the garage, put all the hand tools back in their place and blew off all the sawdust. Then, I swept out the garage. I got out the sawhorses and a board and made a small table outside to clean off the grille grates and my indoor grill pan.

So, I took them out of the oven and, with some damp paper towels, cleaned the powder out of the oven itself. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you know what I mean. If you don't, it's the ash left from the high heat burning the crud off the oven walls and racks, etc.

I used a drill and two wire brushes (one straight and one cone-shaped) to get the ash and rust off the first two grates. Then I lined two cookie sheets with tin foil and put them on the bottom oven rack. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F.

I took two of the grates and washed them in the sink with a Brillo pad. After rinsing carefully, I put them on the top rack for 3 minutes to dry them off and warm them up. Then I smeared Crisco all over them with a kitchen towel and put them back in the oven upside down on the top rack for one hour to season them. I did research this online and found if you turn the frying pan or whatever upside down (with the cookie sheets to catch drips) it avoids flat spots you can get if there is too much grease in the pan.

I went back outside and did the remaining grate and my grill pan. I set those on the kitchen counter for later and went out to put away the tools and sawhorses, etc. Then I went out back and refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder.

Now it's was almost 5:00 PM and I had wanted to take a nap. So, I got my book and climbed into bed. There is something so wonderful about clean, cool, fresh-smelling sheets! Unfortunately, I never did fall asleep, but I did manage to clean the next set of cast iron and get them in the oven to season, while the first grates cooled on my rack. I also finished my book (the second of five).

After that, I got out of bed at 6:15 PM and went to work on the sink. Yes, the kitchen sink! I never did get the small drips to stop, so at Home Depot, I bought a new tail pipe and special washer, along with a new trap. I replaced everything and, miracle of miracles, NO LEAKS!!! I gave a silent thanks to the plumbing gods, but being a bit skeptical, didn't put everything back under the sink, just another two sheets of paper towels. I'll put everything back Sunday morning, if no further drips occur.

I let the second batch of cast iron cool off in the oven with the door open while I made a quick dinner. Brats again, Boiled in beer, then pan-charred. I ate three of them on (gulp) "organic, multi-grain buns" with yellow mustard.

I decided enough was enough and quit for the night. I watched a movie recommended by both B__ and Jake: "Departed." It was excellent, and riveting enough that I stayed awake until it ended. Then I watched a TV movie, "Stone Cold" with Tom Selleck. It was good, but I did doze off somewhere in there and don't know how it ended. So Saturday came to a close...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Friday Follies

While getting ready for work, I put together Friday night's dinner in the slow cooker. No being too confident of the results, I covered each of the eight pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's Hot and Spicy). I arranged them in two layers and turned the cooker on low.

Before leaving for work, I took a picture of Thursday night's snow and posted it, but it's really still too early and too dark outside. I didn't measure it this time, but I'd guess we got around three inches of snow at the most. But, it was a sunny day and the sun is a lot warmer now, so by the time I got home, about half of it had already melted.

As you can see in the Photos, I roamed around, looking for signs of spring and did, indeed, find some. Since I was feeling frisky, I tried using the floor jack and the jack stands to see how high I could safely get the mower. I got it up there, alright, but since I still had my good clothes on, I didn't try taking the blades off.

When I came inside, I was assailed by the smell of barbecue sauce. I checked the slow cooker. The juices from the chicken had combined with the barbecue sauce and the chicken was bubbling away in a "soup" of liquid. So, not the caramelized coating of grilled chicken, basted with sauce. Not even close. But, I'll tell you what. The meat just fell off the bones and the taste of the sauce had permeated the meat. So, appearance, not so hot; taste, fantastic.

My daughter Melissa called. She had left me a voicemail yesterday, mentioning something about song lyrics. But, before we could discuss that, she had to abruptly end the call. So, I still don't know what that is about.

I watched TV, dozed off for a bit, watched more TV, and then went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and, when I couldn't fall back asleep, read a book until I was tired again.

Friday, March 28, 2008

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Signs of Spring: Tulips and daffodils in the back yard

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Signs of Spring: Forsythia buds

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Signs of Spring: Lilac buds

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Signs of Spring: Daffodils

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Front Yard, Friday 6:45 AM (you'll have to click on this to enlarge to see it properly, then use your Browser's "Back" button to return)

Thursday, and the storm approaches

You know, every morning before I leave I check to see if the crocuses in my front garden are up. (Come on, Spring!) But, nothing! Well, today while I was watching the news on Channel 4, the weather man said his tulips were up! So, I checked again for my crocus (nothing) then I took the time to walk over to where the daffodils are, and found they are up about six inches! I can only assume one of two things: either the warm weather a while back made the crocuses grow, then the next cold snap killed them; or the squirrels ate the bulbs.

Speaking of the missing Spring, it rained off and on most of the day, but by the time I left work for home, it had turned to snow. We have had a revision of this morning's forecast. It was supposed to be 1-3 inches of slushy snow. Now it's a Winter Snow Advisory and the prediction is 3-6 inches of snow!

When I got home I was in the office when I noticed that "somebody" had chewed completely though my extra long phone cord! Damn Caley!!! I wish she would try and chew through one of the 110 volt cords to my lamps or something! I posted the photos so you can see what I mean.

I got a call from from my son Jeremy. He's giving a major presentation for his company down in Florida the first part of April. So, he's planning on flying down to Raleigh, North Carolina with Riese, leaving here with Sadie and Luanne while he goes to Florida and then picking her back up on the way back. This will be her first airplane ride, so she's pumped! He also warned me she will be calling tonight and letting me know how much I owe for her March of Dimes book reading campaign.

I have been really thinking about summer barbeque. So, in lieu of using my grille, I'll use my slow cooker for Friday night's dinner (and weekend snacks). A guy at work told me a couple years ago his wife just puts chicken in her crock pot and a jar of barbeque sauce, lets it cook for 8 hours on low and it's perfect. I admit I was skeptical, but as luck would have it, I came across that very recipe online. So, tonight I am thawing out two packs of bone-in chicken thighs and will assemble it all in the morning.

Also regarding summer grilling, I remembered how before the season starts, I want to deep clean my cast iron grill grates. Unfortunately, I must have been out in the garage messing with my grill when Riese called. But she did leave a message! I either owe $30 or $34, so I'll send $34 just to be safe!

Anyway, I got the grates and put them in the oven, along with my stove top grille pan, locked the door and turned the oven to "Clean". It's a 4 1/2 hour process and somewhere in there, my smoke alarms went off. So, I turned the vent on high, opened my bedroom window a crack, disconnected both smoke alarms and turned on both the bedroom and kitchen fans. It was quite an acrid smell, BTW. But, in the morning, I should have clean, albeit white powder-covered, cast iron.

I watched a taped show, but called it an early night and went to sleep around 9:00 PM (after reconnecting the smoke alarms).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

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Front Yard, Thursday, March 27, 5:30 PM

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Caley's New Teething Toy, Part 1

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Caley's New Teething Toy, Part 2

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Caley's New Teething Toy, Part 3

Wednesday's Work

This time, after work, I stopped at Meijer's and picked up the things I'd missed last weekend. I got home after 5:30 PM and put the groceries away. I immediately started tonight's dinner, another tuna salad. I am really getting hooked on these things! Although I know, as a diabetic, both the mayonnaise and the pasta aren't that good for me. On the other hand, most dinner's I make, that cost three times as much, aren't that good for me, either...

First thing after changing clothes, I went out and lay on the garage floor. Why? So I could feel the blades on the lawn mower. As I suspected, NONE of them is properly sharpened and one side of the right-side blade has a big bend in it (like I hit a rock or something, although I know I didn't, as I have no rocks here). I think that explains all the dust I was throwing up last year. Now if I could just figure out how to raise the mower to take them off and either repair or replace the blades...

Next, I made the pasta and steamed the peas for the tuna salad. They both went into the fridge after getting shocked.

Never trusting anything or anybody, I had laid a bunch of paper towel under the newly cleared drains (before putting everything back) and noticed that the one connection leaked a little bit. I tried tightening it yesterday, with no good effect. So, at lunch today, I picked up a new piece of pipe and two connectors (the old one seemed a bit distorted when I removed it). Now, at 7:15 PM, I am replacing the old one and installing the new one. But, since I got everything wet when taking the trap off, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to put down the tell-tale paper towels to see if I fixed it.

I noticed when getting out the hardboiled eggs, I only have two left (just what I needed). But, when I checked, I only have five regular raw eggs left. I should have checked them before grocery shopping tonight! Be that as it may, I made the last of the eggs into hardboiled while I worked on the sink. I guess another shopping trip is on the horizon, sigh...

So, I got the tuna salad made and in the fridge to chill. I went in the living room with my book and read until the new Top Chef show came on. I grabbed a bowl of tuna salad and went in to watch it, then went to sleep afterwards.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, man...

I went to the library after work, as I finished my last book Monday night.

When I got home from work, I remembered there were some clothes in the dryer I never got out and folded. So, I did. Two of the items were the t-shirt and shorts I washed after being sprayed with the Draino and water. After washing, they looked like a throwback to the 1960's, man. Tie-Dyed! (I knew that stuff was nasty!)

I worked on a little carpentry job in one of my closets and got that done by 7:30 PM. I warmed up the last of the Asparagus and Mushroom quiche for dinner. I switched off the TV and started reading one of my new books around 10:30 PM and fell asleep before midnight.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday Moanin'

I woke up to the alarm clock on Monday. I did my usual pre-work routine, and then sat in the living room, reading my book, waiting for the plumber. He showed up at 7:50 AM and by 8:10 AM, he was writing out my receipt for snaking out the kitchen sink.

Okay, okay, its only $130 US and I needed it done badly. But, it still ticks me off. Why didn't I just buy a power snake? Or, better yet, rent one? Oh, well... I'm off to work.

When I got home, I cleaned out the refrigerator (garbage day tomorrow). I still have two dinners of leftovers, but don't really feel like eating either. So, (a little late, I know) I took out a pound of hamburger to thaw.

Lu called. The fix on her ligament hasn't worked, so she'll need surgery in the latter part of April.

I made Old El Paso enchiladas (in a box). Were they great? No, not really. But, it was a different taste for a change.

I watched some TV, but then switched to my book, then bed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Sunday

I got up at 6:00 AM on Easter Sunday. No breakfast or coffee. I posted the Blog, and, since I was on the computer anyway, I started to finalize my Federal and State taxes. Turbo Tax (the software program I am using) had sent me an email that let me know their prices would rise after March 29th, so I finished my taxes today. I e-filed, BTW. But, when I went to the "Print your taxes for your records and/or save to your computer" I couldn't get the .pdf files to show. I turned off all the pop-up blockers, etc. Then checked my Adobe software and I have three versions on this computer (1.1, 3.something and 8.1). This may be the problem! So, I removed all 3 programs and reloaded Adobe 8.1. Bingo! I printed off a copy of my taxes for my records.

Since I have the plumber coming tomorrow, I thought I should drain the sink. While I was unscrewing the trap the wrench slipped and, instead of neatly catching the water in the bucket, the water squirted sideways, covering me, the inside of the cabinet and some of the kitchen floor with a Draino and water mix. I hurriedly disrobed, mopped up the cabinet and floor with my clothes, threw them in the washer and filled it with cold water and then threw myself in the shower. I washed the cupboard and kitchen floor when I got dressed.

Jake called, and the Easter brunch plans have changed, (we were going to the Irish restaurant for brunch, like we did last year) but now he and Carla are making it and I don't have to bring anything.

I have no idea what the menu is, but I'd still like to bring something. So, I made a traditional Irish dish I wanted to try called Calcannon. Basically, its mashed potatoes and then you fold in crumbled bacon saut�ed onion and saut�ed chopped cabbage.

I left at 12:30 PM for Jake & Carla's house. Carla was already cooking when I got there. Jake was good enough to print me out today's brunch menu:

- Arugula, Fontina and Morel Frittata
- Morel and Sliced Potato Cake
- Cranberry Scones
- Cinnamon Raisin Swirls
- Muscovado Danish
- Mini Croissants with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon
- Oil-cured Black and Bleu Cheese-stuffed Green Olives
- Bocconcini and Vine-ripened Tomatoes
- Grape, Orange, Apple, Mango and Strawberry Fruit Salad
- Champaign Orange Marmalade

and my Colcannon (absolutely unnecessary).

The frittata tasted as good as it looked and it looked PERFECT, with just the right amount of browning of the Fontina cheese. That was the first time I ever tasted morel mushrooms and they were excellent! Everything was, BTW. I couldn't pick a favorite (even now) and the only two things I didn't try (no more room, lol!) was the Cranberry Scones and the Cinnamon Raisin Swirls.

After they cleaned up (I just sat there, fat, dumb and happy!) we watched a movie they had picked up for me. "No Country for Old Men." It was an excellent suspense film and, even though I personally did not like the ending, I would recommend it.

I left for home just before 6:00 PM. When I got home, I changed and did the dishes from making the Colcannon earlier in the laundry tub. Really, I don't know how Sadie and Luanne did this for six months or how ever long they were without a kitchen sink during their remodeling. It's a pain in the butt, not to mention a pain in the small of your back from bending over.

Speaking of Sadie and Luanne, I called them and wished them Happy Easter. Nothing too much new there, they are hard at work, preparing for an upcoming visit from Jeremy and Riese.

I watched my usual Sunday night shows, pausing only to make a roast beef sandwich around 9:00 PM, and went to sleep at 11:00 PM. Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday's Story

I woke up at 6:00 AM today. I do NOT feel motivated in any way, but yet I drag myself out of bed. I backed up the website (a weekly chore) and then wrote and posted the Blog entry. Now, I'm off in search of a cup of coffee (reheated) and a spell on the couch with "Saturday Morning, Over Easy" and my book and blanket.

Well, enough of being lazy. I shaved and showered, then went outside to take the last of the storm pictures and post them. I checked and I only have 6 inches of snow, here. I understand from the TV that as you get north of 8 mile road, the amount lessens as well, so that in Macomb County, they only have four inches or less.

I made breakfast (poached eggs on buttered rye toast) and then started the first of three loads of clothes (I never did my Wednesday night wash, you see).

Back to the kitchen sink. The water from last night still has not gone down. I was thinking there may be a cleanout in the crawl space I
could get to, so I checked the access to the crawl space (in the closet in the office). Its 14" x 20" and the crawl space itself (at that point anyway) is 20" high. I measured me and with my back against the wall (oh, how I know that feeling) its 16 inches to the front of my belly and my shoulders are 23 inches wide. So, no way am I gonna fit down that hole or be able to crawl around. I called the plumber who snakes out my main drain (that sounds dirty, lol) and he said he could come right now or Monday at 8:30 AM. I asked the cost and he said $130.00 for Monday, but he'd have to double it for today (Holiday and all). I said, "See ya Monday!"

I was folding the second load of laundry on my bed when I saw that one of the cats had used the clean (as of yesterday) bedspread as an emesis tray for a hairball. Disgusted, I cleaned it up, sprayed the spot with "Shout" and put it back in the washer! So, make that four loads of laundry today!!

So, it's 12:30 PM and I have all the floors swept or vacuumed and the second load of clothes hung up. I don't want to wash the kitchen floor until all the laundry's done. So, since I plan on having leftover tuna salad for my lunch, I steam some peas (I missed them) to add to the salad before eating. BTW, its almost 40 degrees F and the snow is starting to melt. Everywhere it's dripping outside.

So, I ate lunch and at 2:15 PM, decided to watch my second movie, "Tears of the Sun." About half way through, my daughter Melissa called. Since our last conversation ended on a sour note, I took the call and tried (badly) to shut off the movie. I will not repeat our conversation, but we ended this call quicker and on a much more positive note.

After hanging up with Melissa, I watched the end of the movie. Then, I went off to make my dinner. I know, I know, I don't have a kitchen sink right now, but I am sick of leftovers! So, I made an asparagus and mushroom quiche. Here's how:

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

I cooked 4 slices of thick bacon cut into half inch pieces in a large skillet over medium heat until evenly brown and crisp. I drained the bacon on paper towels, crumbled it and set it aside. Then, I added one cup of chopped onions to the bacon grease, saut�ed and stirred them until they were translucent. I reduced the heat to medium and added one cup of sliced Portobello mushrooms. I cooked those until they were tender and then set the mixture aside.

Meanwhile, I brought a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. I added in one cup of chopped fresh asparagus and cooked it in the boiling water until just tender, (one to two minutes). I immediately drained it and ran it under cold water to shock it and stop the cooking process.

I brushed a 9-inch deep dish pie shell with a beaten egg white, after poking the bottom with fork. I placed the onion and mushroom mixture, asparagus, and bacon into the bottom of the pie shell. Then, I sprinkled one cup of shredded sharp Cheddar and 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese over the vegetables. In a small bowl, I whisked together the leftover egg yolk, two whole eggs, 3/4 cup of half and half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper until smooth. I poured this mixture over the vegetable and cheese filling.

I popped the filled pie shell into the oven and baked it uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned on top. I let it cool to room temperature before serving. Before I cut into it, I took a photo and posted it. Click on it to enlarge, and then use your browser's back button to return.

So, now its time for Saturday night fights on HBO. I watched that show (excellent, BTW, and my guy, Joel, won!) and then the replay of last weeks pay-per-view and probably didn't get to bed until after midnight.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

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Saturday's Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche

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Easter Snow Storm, Front Yard 8:30 AM Saturday

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Easter Snow Storm, Backyard 8:30 AM Saturday

Good Friday wasn't so Good!

I woke up at 7:00 AM and made coffee. I wrote and posted the blog entry for Friday and then made a short grocery list for items I need and/or want for the weekend. It is supposed to start snowing sometime after 1:00 PM and I want to be back at home before then.

I took a shower (no shave) and then dressed for my errand run. I stripped the bed and put the sheets in the washer before I left. I went to the Credit Union for some cash, then to Best Buy for a DVD/CD player cleaning kit. While I was there, I picked up the two movies I had taped, but now no longer will play. Then I came back and went to Meijer's for the groceries and a big (80 ounce) container of Liquid PlumR Gel (it's supposed to "destroy" the clog! I hope this isn't just hype!)

I got home just before noon and changed clothes. I put the bedding in the dryer and unpacked the few grocery bags. I measured how much volume is in the sink trap I had taken off (2/3 cup, BTW) and then re-installed it. Next I put in a double amount of gel, plus 2/3 cup for the trap and set the timer for twice as long as the instructions recommend. I might just eat through the pipes, but I damn sure will eat through this accursed clog!

I went out and refilled the suet cage. Still no visible snow, but you can smell it. So, now I've had lunch (roast beef sandwich with Swiss cheese and spicy mustard on sour dough bread) and made up the bed (I don't care about this stupid snow. The calendar says its spring, so the flannel sheets go back in the linen closet and the cotton sheets go back on the bed!).

Now it's time to try the sink. I fill half the bucket up with hot water, (so I am using pure hot water from the get-go) and dump that in the toilet. Then, I turn on the kitchen faucet. Still clogged! But, on the bright side, the water didn't go as high in the sinks as it did before and it went down a lot faster. I'll give it four hours to drain out (I have trouble believing that the drain stuff can go through standing water) and then try again. I still have over half a bottle left. I am disappointed, but not yet discouraged.

I move from that to using the DVD cleaner. Then, I put in my first new movie, Master and Commander and watched that. It's in "widescreen" format, but the salesgirl told me that they rarely make the other kind that fits my TV screen anymore. So, I will either have to learn to adjust to watching movies with the black bands on top and bottom, or get another TV that will play "widescreen" (which I don't see happening anytime soon, lol!)

The snow started just around 3:15 PM. It was light, then, but by 5:00 it was coming down hard. I watched the weather on the 5 o'clock news, and they have revised the forecast. They say the storm has shifted north and now are predicting 8-10 inches of snow in my area! Good God!

I turned off the news after the weather and decided to take a nap. I woke up at 7:00 PM and tried the sink again. I poured in the rest of the bottle of Draino and waited 45 minutes this time. Then I added hot water! Sh*t! It's worse this time!! Water backed up immediately. I'll give it overnight to see if the water slowly recedes as it had in the past.

Now, onto dinner. I am using the leftover corned beef to make a Rueben sandwich. I must tell you, I had a hell of a time finding rye bread in Meijer's. You can find any kind of cracked wheat, whole wheat, 7-grain, 9-grain, even potato bread, etc., but all I could find in rye was Beefsteak rye.

So, I cut the corned beef across the grain into thin slices. I put a spicy mustard on one slice of bread then the corned beef, some sauerkraut, and topped it all with two slices of Swiss cheese. Then I added Russian dressing to the other piece of rye bread. Here's where I get a bit mystified. Supposedly, the "real" Rueben recipe I found calls for Russian dressing (you're also supposed to use Russian rye bread, but I was just gratefully I found ANY rye at all!). But, I could swear that every Reuben I ever ate had Thousand Island dressing on it. Does anybody know what's right?

I buttered the bread on the outside and grilled it, with a domed lid to also heat the inside. When both sides were perfect, I cut it in half and plated it, adding some Salt and Vinegar chips and a pickle. I ate it watching the Friday Night Fights on ESPN. It was delicious!

The Friday Night Fights were good, and my guy won the main event (I normally always root for the Irish fighters, but I liked the other guy because he was the supposed underdog. Us underdogs have to stick together, lol!)

I caught a late night weather forecast and they said they had an official 7 inches of snow at Metro airport (about five miles south of me) which makes this the 5th worst snow totals in Detroit history. Yikes!

Only the occasional sauerkraut burp kept me from falling asleep immediately and that didn't work for long...

Friday, March 21, 2008

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Easter Snow Storm, Front Yard 7:00 PM Friday

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Easter Snow Storm, Backyard 7:00 PM Friday

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Easter Snow Storm, Front Yard 1:00 PM Friday

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Easter Snow Storm, Backyard 1:00 PM Friday

You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish!

So, first thing this morning, I tested the drain in the kitchen. Still stopped up! Damn!!

So, I let it drain while I got ready for work. The last thing I did before leaving the house was to mix and pour in another batch of the bacterial stuff (figuring that the time I am gone to work would be equivalent to overnight). Plan is to try the snake again tonight and then see if I've accomplished ANYTHING.

Today, I spent several hours on hold and talking with various people (my health insurance company, my doctor, the lab I had the blood work done at, the hospital they are affiliated with, the hospital's billing department, their medical records department, and their patient accounting department) to try and resolve a mix-up. I think (and I only "think" at this point, I am not sure) I got it fixed and the insurance company will pay the $382.00 for the blood work I had done back in January. Geesh! What a pain in the butt!

When I got home, I changed clothes and immediately put a pan of water on to boil. I was short on enough of either kind of pasta, so I used both, rotini and medium shells, to make enough for a big bowl of tuna salad for the weekend. When that was in the colander, rinsed and in the fridge to cool, I started in on the sink.

Still no luck with the snake, or the crud eating microbes. Snake is definitely hitting some sort of elbow or "T" in the line and NOT getting to the clog. And the bacteria? Well, going green just didn't do it! So, to hell with the tree huggers, I'm buying the nasty acid stuff Friday morning!

You can check the March archives, (March 8) for the tuna salad recipe, if you like. But, I had a bunch of green onions that weren't looking so good, so I substituted them (sliced fine) for the peas. After chopping the celery and mixing everything up, I taste-tested it for seasoning. Hmmm... I think I like the peas better! Back in the fridge it went to get cold.

I cleaned up the cooking mess and went to read my book on the couch. After an hour or so, I fixed a bowl of the tuna salad and went and watched a taped movie. Since I have tomorrow off, I stayed up and watched the news at 11:00 before going to sleep. We are supposed to get 2-3 inches of snow tomorrow afternoon... sigh...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday's Woes

At lunch, I bought some Bacterial Drain and Trap Cleaner, made by Roebic. My friend B___ swears by this. It's supposed to be more eco-friendly and works by microbes eating the sludge, rather than acid destroying it.

When I got home and changed, I mixed up the stuff and poured it down the drain. This has to work overnight, so nothing's gonna happen here tonight.

I washed dishes in the back laundry tub and took a couple of pictures so you might share my plight.

I had a tray of Brussels sprouts I was going to use to make a variation of Carla's Brussels sprouts with bacon (this one you also add Feta cheese). But, tonight, that's too messy a dish for my limited cleanup capabilities. So, I trimmed the Brussels sprouts and peeled of the top leaves, then just boiled them in salted water for 10 minutes. After draining them, I ate them with butter and salt. I added a helping of cottage cheese, but didn't have any fresh chives. So, they were topped with salt and fresh cracked pepper. And, that was dinner.

I went off to watch a movie and then Top Chef (the second show of the new season). That got over at 10:00 PM and so I went to sleep.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

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My new (hopefully temporary) kitchen sink

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Kitchen, FUBAR

Blogging the Clog

So, Tuesday didn't start out well at all! The weather prediction was freezing rain overnight, but changing to just rain by morning. But, when I looked outside, it was snow and ice! It's been a long damn time since I left for work and my garbage wasn't picked up, so instead of my usual rush outside, I took my shower and got dressed. But, when I took the garbage out at 6:50 AM (it's supposed to be on the side of the road by 7:00) they had already come and gone! Damn!!

I drove to work, went to lunch and then drove home in light rain and cold. I did drop off my St. Patrick's Day card and candy to the rehab center. Of course, Maureen had taken yesterday off (to celebrate) and today off (to recover) but I did enjoy talking with some of the staff who still remembered me!

Once I got home, I changed and took apart the plumbing under the sink. This time I'm using a small snake, but with no appreciable results. I'm not sure if I'm hitting the clog or an elbow, but when I pull the snake out, nothing is on the end. I finally gave up and got my Dad's old, huge snake, but I can't get it to bend around even the first elbow. I think it was made for field tile or at least something bigger than a 2 inch pipe.

I gave up at 7:15 PM and cleaned up. I'll get some Draino tomorrow and try that, straight down the pipe. I checked my email and found my first wife's, Fran, mother had passed away. It's too late to get to the funeral home tonight and the funeral is tomorrow, but I did email her my condolences and forwarded the information to my brothers and Lu. I also called my Mom to let her know as well.

I'm hungry and don't feel like leftovers, but a dinner with a lot of pots and pans would be stupid. So, I settled for an old comfort food favorite, Campbell's Tomato soup in a mug and two grilled cheese sandwiches (with dill pickles, of course). I watched a movie until 10:00 PM and then went to bed. Outside, there was an eerie fog that diffused all the normal nighttime lights here on San Jose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

I got up with the alarm and immediately moved to the kitchen. I need to get tonight's dinner in the slow cooker. So, I peeled three carrots and cut them into chunks on the bias. Then I peeled and cubed a medium rutabagas. Next came a large red onion, peeled and cut into wedges. I put a 3+ pound piece of corned beef on top of all that, after rubbing in the seasoning packet. I took 10 baby Redskin potatoes, halved them and stuck them around the beef. Finally, I took half a head of cabbage, cut it into wedges and put them on top of everything to steam. Last but not least, I added 1/4 cup each of both beef stock and chicken stock, put on the lid and turned it to "low."

The water in the sinks has receded, but I am not fooled. So, I picked up some Liquid-Plumr at lunch.

After work, I drove to my old rehab place and dropped off a card and some candy for Maureen. I knew she would be off today, celebrating St. Patrick's Day, but what I forgot is the clinic is closed on Mondays! Wasted trip!!

So, I got home and the house smelled like Ireland itself! But, before I eat, I must attend to the sink. I dump the stuff down the drain after reading the package. If I had a slow drain, I am supposed to pour hot water down the drain after an hour. But, with a clog like mine you're supposed to wait until the bubbles go down and then hit it with the hot water. So, I wait...

While I am waiting, I fix my plate and wander in to eat and watch TV (the kitchen has a bit of a drain cleaner "smell" to it). My dinner, BTW, was excellent. I loved the corned beef and the vegetables were done to perfection.

I watched TV until 10:00 PM, or almost five hours, and then went back to the sink. The foam had subsided, so I took and filled a bucket with water until it was hot. Then I filled up both sinks and waited... and waited... and waited... Finally, I gave up and bailed out the sinks, dumped the water in the toilet and went to sleep.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunday, Backing Up...

I woke up at 7:00 AM, with the sun just coming up. I put on a pot of coffee. I really was going to make breakfast (I was thinking poached eggs on toast) but when I opened the fridge there was still four bacon & cheese deviled eggs. Hmmm... bacon and eggs and I don't have to do anything? I went for it!

I putzed around a bit and then shaved and showered. There were key errands I didn't get done yesterday (short on time if you remember) so, at 11:00 AM, I am back on the road. I went to the gas station, Office Depot for DVD mailers, Waldenbooks for a Borders gift card (shhh... it's a secret) and so forth. I got home just after 12:15 PM.

It just dawned on me that the AT&T guy asked to borrow a pen so I gave him my Spacely Sprockets pen. But, he took it with him!!! Now, I'm ticked!

I filled out the birthday card inserted the gift card and addressed it. I filled out the St. Patrick's Day card for my old physical therapist, Maureen. I shredded a handful of receipts that were clogging up my dresser drawer. Then I looked outside to check on the bird feeder and was struck on how much debris was left on my patio from the winter. Looks like crap! This cannot stand! And, as Carla said yesterday, "It's too bad the chimmenia isn't outside, we could have had a fire."

So, I used the furniture mover to get the chimmenia outside (a bit of an effort, but I am up to it). Then I hunted down the hoses. I looked in the garage, then in the attic until I finally remembered I had drained them and put them on top of the picnic table and under the tarp outside. Since I had to open the tarp anyway, I dug out the lawn chairs and tables as well. First I blew off all the crud with my blower, then I washed everything down with a brush dipped in hot water and Top Job. Then came the long, final rinse from the hose. I took before and after pictures and posted them.

So, its 2:30 PM and I am a bit pooped. I decided to watch a favorite old movie (Master and Commander) and rest a bit before I get to work on my Sunday supper. But, it wouldn't work!!! So, I tried another DVD that I had made. Same thing! It said "disc error." So, I tried a movie I'd purchased (the 300) and that worked. Hmmm... what's up with that? I've watched both the first two movies many times. I hope my DVD player isn't broke.

I took a nap after the movie was finished for about 40 minutes. Then I got up and started dinner. I'm making bratwurst and German potato salad. So, first I put a package of fresh bratwurst into a pan with two cans of beer and boiled them for 5 minutes. I lit the charcoal in the grill. Now, here's where I made a horrible mistake. I usually use a garbage bowl for peelings, etc., and then throw them in the trash. But, I was in a hurry and peeled the potatoes into the sink and ran the garbage disposal. And, of course, the sink backed up!!!

I used the madoline to slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and cooked them in a saucepan, over medium heat, until tender, about 15 minutes. I drained them into the standing water in the backed-up sink and put the pan in the microwave to keep them warm. In a saute pan, over medium heat, I cooked 6 slices of thick bacon I'd cut into one inch peices until crispy. I added one cup of chopped onions to the bacon pan and seasoned them with black pepper. I saut�ed them for 1 minute and then removed them from the heat. In my large mixing bowl, I combined the cooked potatoes, crispy bacon/onions with fat, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of whole grain mustard, four sliced hardboiled eggs, and 1/4 cup of sliced green onions. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and mixed well.

I lightly brushed the sausages with oil. I put them on the grill and cooked them for a couple of minutes on each side. I pulled the sausages from the grill and plated my dinner. I went off to eat and watch my Sunday shows.

At 11:00 PM, I decided that I really did need to wash the load of dishes in the dishwasher. So, I turned it on. Needless to say, the water did not go down the drain, so I ended up bailing out the sink after each cycle and pouring the water down the toilet. I was not happy when I finally got to bed!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

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Patio, Before #1

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Patio, Before #2

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Patio, After #1

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Patio, After #2

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Patio, After #3

On a roll, Saturday

I woke up late and had to immediately jump in the shower to get to my haircut on time. So, Friday's post had to wait (sorry). I went from the barber to Meijer's and picked up the things I needed, and then got home around 10:30 AM. By 12:30, I had the house cleaned and the bedding almost finished in the dryer. Now, onto making more snacks...

First came the bacon-cheese deviled eggs that Carla likes. I took six eggs I had hardboiled yesterday, peeled and halved them, putting the yolks in a bowl. After mashing the yolks with a fork, I added 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a dash of black pepper and stirred it all together. Then I folded in four strips of bacon I'd cooked earlier and then crumbled and two tablespoons of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese. I put that into a sandwich baggie, snipped off one corner and piped the mix back into the egg whites (its easier that way!) I added some finely chopped parsley on top (dropped from a height) for garnish.

I stopped and made up my bed. Then I put the Sloppy Joe's on the stove on "low."

Next I made the Philly Cheesy Chili Dip. That one is simple, but I never had it and always wanted to try it. It's just one box of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened) spread into a microwave safe bowl, then a can of chili (I used Hormel) and topped with two tablespoons of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese. When I'm ready to serve it (with Ritz crackers), I'll pop it into the microwave for about a minute (until the Cheddar cheese melts) and sprinkle the top with fresh, chopped cilantro.

I made the fillings for the spring rolls by taking my non stick skillet, adding a tablespoon of Canola oil and then heating the oil over medium high heat. I added a tablespoon of ground ginger and cooked it a while to release the aroma. Then I added a package of bean spouts, three scallions (white and green) sliced fine, one peeled and grated carrot, and tossed it in the pan to coat. I stirred in two tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, two tablespoons of soy sauce and dash of sesame oil and again tossed to coat. I let that cook about five minutes or until most of the liquid evaporated. I set the pan aside to cool. One its was off the heat I added 1/2 pound of cooked shrimp after removing the tails and chopping them up (You don't want to re-cook shrimp of it gets rubbery, you see).

The other 1/2 pound of shrimp I left the tails on, hung them on the side of a ramekin and filled the ramekin with a quick seafood sauce (ketchup and horseradish to taste).

Then I made my spring roll dipping sauce by combining three tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup dark tamari soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, two scallions (white and green) sliced very fine and a teaspoon of sesame oil. I whisked that together and divided it into three small glass bowls.

I was just about to fill the spring roll wrappers when Jake and Carla showed up. We chatted while I made the rolls. In the interest of trying something new, this time I doubled the amount of filling I normally use so, while I had a lot fewer, they were much bigger. Like always, I point one corner of the 6-inch square wrapper towards me, add some of the filling, cover it with the corner nearest me, kinda snug it up, fold in the two outside corners, wet the remaining corner with water and roll up, making sure the last corner is nice and glued shut by the water.

Here's where I messed up. I normally cook them immediately, but I put them on a paper plate to fry later.

So, we got out the Scrabble game and I got out the Philly Cheesy Chili Dip, micro-waved it and put the bowl and the Ritz crackers on a platter. We tried it and decided we liked it. Easy snack! But, after we ate most of it, I remembered I didn't add the cilantro (which I had prepared and was sitting on the counter in a ramekin). Oh, well. Next time. I also got out the deviled eggs, so we munched and played a good hard-fought game. In the end, Carla blitzed us! I mean that literally, she won with the word "blitzed." Jake was a close second, and I was third, again!

One that was completed, I put three inches of canola oil in my Dutch oven and heated the oil to 365 degrees F. Now, I use a candy thermometer, but I have told you in the past of Carla's trick, where you put a wooden spoon handle in the oil, and when there are bubbles around the handle, its ready. I learned another one the other day. You put in one kernel of popcorn and, since popcorn pops between 350 and 365 degrees F., when that kernel pops, you are also ready.

I put the spring rolls in four at a time. And here's where that "paper plate and wait" did me in. The rolls kinda stuck to the paper plate, so much so that two of them were weakened by me getting them off and burst open while cooking. It was a bit of a mess, but didn't matter, though. We ate them anyway. Very good!

We started playing Uno and I took out the shrimp cocktail. Either Jake or Carla would win each hand, but I never did! Then the doorbell rang! I went and it was a guy from AT&T, who wanted to tell me about their new cable, internet and phone offer. Since it was about $50 less than I am paying now, I was interested! He took my information and called in to see when it could be activated, but they told him it was NOT available yet on San Jose, north of Plymouth Road. So that was a complete waste of time.

We finished the last hand around 7:30 PM and Jake and Carla left. It was then when I remembered that nobody ever had even one Sloppy Joe! I guess I had too many snacks! So, I put them in a freezer container and then into the fridge. One day this week, I will have my supper already made. I turned off the CD player and went to see what was on TV. Didn't see anything that interesting, so I started reading and fell asleep sometime after 9:30 PM.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quick Quiz

What do you call a crabby Argentine cowboy?

A Groucho

~Manic Organic

Finally Friday

Ah, Friday! Despite the forecast, it wasn't raining when I woke up. I was careful to avoid puddles both to and fro work and at lunch time, so my car still looks pretty good.

I got home and started the weekend laundry. Jake and Carla are coming over tomorrow afternoon, so I have a house to clean, a 9:00 AM haircut and a quick Kroger trip (I'm just making snacks) in the morning. So, I am trying to get as much done tonight as possible.

I cranked the radio up and got going. First, a grocery list of items I "don't" have for the recipes I want to make. Then I started on food.

First I'm making homemade Sloppy Joes. I plan on serving them as finger food by putting them on sliced-in-the-middle dinner rolls
I saut�ed 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, one chopped medium onion, and 3/4 cup of sliced celery in my large skillet over medium-high until the meat was fully cooked and then drained off the excess liquid. I mixed in a tablespoon of minced garlic, one teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of Montreal grill seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of chili powder, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 14 ounces of ketchup, 1/8 cup of brown sugar, and 1/8 cup of water. I reduced the heat to low and simmered it uncovered for 30 minutes.

Somewhere in the middle of making this, my daughter Melissa called with some sad news. Her Grandmother Brogan had a severe stroke and is not expected to survive. My thoughts and prayers go out to Fran and her family. I have not seen the woman in years, and Melissa says she is, well, difficult at times. But, I remember her as a hard working, long-suffering wife and mother of 12 and will never forget taking her to and from the hospital when her youngest daughter, Donna, was born.

Unfortunately, we talked too long and the conversation did not end well (my bad). When I got off the phone, I was starving, so I ate a Sloppy Joe on bread and put the rest in the fridge. It was too late to make more snacks or clean house, so I watched a taped show that Jake's been talking about: "Manic Organic" (on Bravo). Goofy guy for a host, but an interesting show (he grows his own organic food and then cooks it).

I was tired and feared falling asleep if I watched TV, so I switched to reading. I did fall asleep, but since I had my glasses off already to read, it was no problem.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Washing Away Winter

So, today was a bit different. It's time for my annual checkup on my knee replacement (I forget what they call that, the second time around... Oh yeah, revision). Instead of heading to work, I'm heading to Mt. Clemens and Doctor Hanlon's office. Now, according to the news this morning, they did get freezing rain up north of me (nothing here to speak of) and the Van Dyke Expressway is closed because of ice between 23-Mile and 30-Mile. To give you some perspective, I live about a mile south of Five-Mile, BTW, and I am going to, like, 17-Mile Road).

I did get a call from B___ alerting me to the fact that he had ice all over his car this morning (he would live, say, west and a bit south of where I am going) and telling me to be careful walking in the parking lot.

Not wanting to join the madness of the Detroit morning commute, I stayed off the expressways and took Inkster to 8-Mile to Groesbeck to Harrington and the doctor's office. I got there in just over an hour, 20 minutes early for my appointment. BTW, the parking lot was already salted when I got there, so, no problemo!

Sidebar: I'd bought some new pants on sale for work the other day and today I am wearing a black pair of one of them. I was, oh, so proud of the fit and feel of them until I sat down in the doctor's waiting room and noticed both pant legs were COVERED with Caley's yellow hair! Damn! Brushing them with my hands didn't help much, so, since there was nobody in the waiting room yet, and the girl in the window kept coming and going, I walked around and whenever she was gone, I kept rubbing each pant leg on the cloth furniture. It was a little better, but still noticeable. I apologize now to anyone who sat in a chair later and then got yellow cat hair all over themselves, but, what's a poor boy to do?

The exam went well. The x-rays showed that the glue had separated on one side of the upper plastic part, but the bone implant was still healthy and, since the metal rods jammed into my bones are extra long, it doesn't appear to be a problem. I am having a bit of a problem with my (good) right knee when I get up from a sitting position, so he also x-rayed that. No obvious problem, so if it doesn't get worse I just need to go back in a year. Otherwise it's an MRI or arthroscopy surgery to see what might be the problem. Hmmm... Trust me, I think I'd rather just wait and see..

The morning commute over, I took the E-ways back and got to work about 10:10 AM. Before I got on the expressway, I stopped at a Rite-Aid Drug store and bought two of those rollers that have masking tape on them to get off cat hair. I'll leave one at work, and take one home to clean off my couches, chairs and new pants!

So, I'm on the way home after work and its sunny and over 40 degrees F. I know it's supposed to (maybe) snow and rain again tonight, but I am sick of peering out of salt-crusted windows. So, I stopped and used the quarter carwash near my house to clean up my Volvo. I drove back to the house (carefully, its a dirt road) and used a towel to dry off the windows and sheet metal. Since I was thinking "car," I turned on the air compressor and made sure all the tire's air pressures were up to snuff (one was a little low, BTW), refilled the windshield washer fluid and checked the oil (I am overdue for an oil change) and found it almost 1/2 quart low, so I refilled that, too.)

Then, inside and the cat's treats passed out, I was looking out my kitchen window to see how much standing water I had (not bad, really and there's a lot more brown grass than white snow!) But, it occurred to me just how dirty the windows had gotten over the winter. So, I took down Jake's bike (Damn, I wish that bike would go home) to get to the step ladder and took it outside. I washed the kitchen and bathroom windows (outside) and then moved inside. I washed the insides and then tilted in the bottom windows and washed them as well (you can't do the bottom windows outside because there is a screen in your way, but they are made to release and tilt inwards). I saw a few spots I'd missed outside (this is where having a wife or live-in girlfriend would come in handy), but its almost 7:00 PM, I've put away the step ladder (and Jake's bike) and I don't really give a sh*t any more.

I am warming up more leftovers. I reheated the herb-noodles (from the Belgian Beef Stew) and the last two pork chops. Both were still tasty. I went in and watched TV until 10:00 PM and then went to sleep.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, Waking Up

I got home late as I had a few errands to run. Coming down my road, I saw the thawing of late has resulted in large pools of water, both on the approach to the new mailbox and in front of the old. And, it still freezes at night, here. So, before I shut the garage door, I got my hoe and dug channels from the puddles to the ditch. I've done this before and I know that it won't be long before the channels fill up with silt, but I gotta at least try and dry out my piece of road.

Then, before I took off my shoes (much to the disgust of the cats, who were looking for their treats) I walked out back and refilled the suet cage and the bird feeder. Then, finally, the cats got their treats and all was right in my house.

I checked the caller ID and saw an old friend had called today. Long (l-o-n-g) time readers may remember George. George is an older black man who misdials the number of his lady friend and gets my house instead. It used to happen all the time, back when Jake and Carla lived here, but had diminished of late. Come to think of it, Jake and/or Carla might actually remember, but I "think" his lady friend's name was Bessy. Anyway, when I would answer, he was always apologetic and I always told him it was no trouble at all. But, this time, he didn't leave a message, just hung up, I guess. But, it's good to know you're still around, George! When you gonna make Bessie an honest woman?

I changed my clothes and then emptied the dishwasher. I am taping (or trying to tape - I tried yesterday, but something screwed up, lol) an Extreme Makeover, Home Edition for Sadie and Luanne, the one that took place in Farmville, Virginia. I told her I would mail them the DVD.

Dinner? You guessed it! Leftovers, again! I gotta use them up!!!

I watched a taped episode of No Reservations (occasionally dozing), then the season premier of Top Chef on Bravo. Finally, I went to sleep.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuesday

Well, I wasn't as sleepy as I was on Monday afternoon today. Maybe I got this Daylight Savings curse conquered. Then again, since I fell asleep before 10:00, maybe not...

I went to the library after work to replenish my books (I finished the last old one Monday night) so I didn't get home until almost 6:00 PM. When I did, I had an unusual message on my machine. It was from Jyl's sister, Judy and just said, "I don't know why I have this number, I found it in my math book and it just says 'John' and this number. But, I have another problem with math and could use your help. Please call."

So, I tried the first of two numbers she gave for a while and it was always busy. So, I tried the second and got her. I explained who I was and how (probably) my name and number got into her math book. You see, the first time they came to my house, Judy was working on a math problem and I tried to help her (I failed, BTW). Luckily, she said she'd solved the problem before I called her back, and I was saved the embarrassment of not being able to help her, again.

Dinner was leftovers (I have a LOT of leftovers) again.

Lu had left an email to call her after 8:00 PM and she could tell me the right glue to use on that broken bowl. So, I did, but just got their recorder and left a message. Then I called my Mom, but only talked briefly as she said she goes to bed at 8:30 PM. She did give me a report on the food I'd brought. She liked the potato soup (take that, Jake!), the stuffed green pepper was good, but too big (neither of them could finish it) and the beef stew she thought had too strong a taste for her. So, I have to rethink this, I guess. Smaller portions, blander tastes.

I started watching TV, but fell asleep before 9:30 PM. So, I missed Luanne's late return call, (she was delivering twin goats back in the barn) but she did leave me a message with the name of the glue. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American Soldier

AMERICAN SOLDIER

~ Lyrics by Toby Keith

I'm just trying to be a father,
Raise a daughter and a son,
Be a lover to their mother,
Everything to everyone.
Up and at 'em bright and early,
I'm all business in my suit,
Yeah, I'm dressed for success from my head down to my boots,
I don't do it for money, there's still bills that I can't pay,
I don't do it for the glory, I just do it anyway,
Providing for our future's my responsibility,
Yeah I'm real good under pressure, being all that I can be,
And I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekends been to strong,
I just work straight through the holidays,
And sometimes all night long.
You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door,
Hey, I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey I'm true down to the core,
And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price,
I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice,
Oh, and I don't want to die for you,
But if dying's asked of me,
I'll bear that cross with an honor,
'Cause freedom don't come free.
I'm an American soldier, an American,
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand,
When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right,
I'm out here on the front lines, so sleep in peace tonight.
American soldier, I'm an American,
An American,
An American Soldier

Monday, post Daylight Savings

I woke up in time, but for some reason I was chilly getting ready for work. It wasn't until I was at work that I realized that, in spite of me diligently changing all the clocks (including the one in the car, which usually doesn't get done for a week or so) I completely forgot to change the one on my set-back thermostat! So, that was the first thing I did when I got home.

Speaking of that damn Daylight Saving, like I said, I got up okay. But, about 1:00 PM, I got so sleepy! I had a very hard time staying awake, even after drinking two more cups of coffee. But, I decided that I would NOT go home and take a nap, I'd just stay up as late as I could.

For dinner I warmed up one pork chop in the microwave while I took the last of the mashed potatoes, added a little flour and an egg and formed them into two patties. I put a little oil in a non-stick pan and fried them both until golden on each side. I ate them with a little salt on the top. This was my first wife, Fran's, method of using up leftover mashed potatoes and I still like it (although I am pretty sure its not considered a "healthy" choice, anymore).

I started watching a movie at 8:00 PM and I don't think I even lasted until 9:00! I did wake up at 1:30 AM, shut off the TV and light and just went back to sleep.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday's Story...

I woke up at 6:42 AM, but then remembered I was supposed to "spring" all the clocks forward last night. So, I did my watch first and then walked from room to room synchronizing the clocks. I realized that I have at least one clock in every room of this house and, if you count the ones on appliances, four in the kitchen!!!

Why? What is this obsession with time? What happened to the carefree guy who used to sing "Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?" Apparently, now I do! (...if so, I can't imagine why...)

So, I lost an hour of this day already. Now I'm feeling pressured! So, I drank two cups of coffee while putting the coffee pot, last night's glasses and finally this morning's cup in the dishwasher and turning that on. I stripped my bed, and the bedding went in the wash. I fluffed up the towels I'd left in the dryer and then folded them.

Next, I dusted the living room, and then vacuumed the rug. Now that I know Carla is the most allergic to cat hair, I worked on all cloth surfaces (couch, loveseat, chairs, etc.) both with the cat hair brush Luanne bought me and the vacuum cleaner attachments to get all the cat hair up. I used the electric broom to do all the wood floors. I took a picture of it standing up (see Photos) because my friend just bought a newer model (it's the Hoover "Flair") and he says his will not free-stand. They must have changed them since I bought mine, I guess.

Deferring my shave and shower was definitely a good choice, as I am freely sweating, now. I used the electric sweeper on the kitchen, both baths and the downstairs (emptying it twice, I might add). I took my drip pans and grates from the stove and put them to soak in the laundry tub with HOT water and Pine Sol.

I have a real problem with my crocks that I use to give the cats water and to put Caley's special diet cat food in. The water one keeps getting grotty (if that's a word) and since she's been here, Caley hasn't eaten that cat food down enough to refill the original bowl (although I bought a new bag of the stuff). So, it's time I faced the facts! I have two stainless steel bowls from Jake and Carla up in the attic, so they have become the new water dishes (one in the bedroom, one downstairs, to avoid the occasional fights). Caley's cat food went out under the bird feeder to see if the squirrels will eat it.

It's 11:00 AM and I forgot to mention it's a beautiful, sunny day, albeit a bit cold (24 degrees F or -4 degrees C). I washed the kitchen and bathroom floors and, while they are drying, I am using my dust mop, sprayed with Endust, on the hardwood floors and shaking it off frequently on the front porch (quickly, I might add, as I still have my T-shirt and shorts on and it's a bit chilly out there, lol!)

Now its noon and I am done with the floors. So, I switch gears and clean the naked stove top with Soft Scrub. Next, I took my battery-powered drill and the Soft Scrub and cleaned the drip pans and the grates. Just after 2:30 PM, I had the stove top done and was taking the bedding out of the dryer and making the bed. I realized just how beat I really was, so I shaved and showered, and then got into my clean, fresh-smelling bed to read a bit before a nap.

Ah...

At a little after 4:00 PM, the phone rang. Since I was sleeping, it took a while to decide it was, in fact, the phone and, that I was supposed to answer it. By the time I did, the person had hung up. I checked the Caller ID and saw it was my daughter, Melissa. So, I called her back and we talked until 5:30.

Now, onto dinner! Tonight, I am making Carbonnade a la Flamade or a Belgian Beef, Beer and Onion Stew. It's a little later than I'd like, but what the hell. So, here's how I made it:

Oh, before I forget, the Belgium beer, Chimay Peres Trappistes Ale Premier, had a champagne cork and wire instead of a normal top! Damn clever, those monks!

Anyway, I took a thawed blade roast and, slicing off the extra fat and gristle, cut it into one inch cubes. You need marbleized meat for this, so regular stewing beef or even a round steak is usually too lean. I dried the beef with paper towels and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I put a tablespoon of canola oil into my Dutch oven and put it on medium-high heat until it started smoking. I worked in three batches, searing the meat and putting each batch in a bowl.

When that was done, I added more oil to the now-empty Dutch oven, reduced the heat to medium low and added about 6 cups of sliced onions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of tomato paste. I stirred that together, scrapping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits, until the onions released some moisture (about five minutes). Then I turned the heat to medium and cooked (stirring occasionally) until the onions were lightly browned (maybe 14 minutes). I added 3 cloves of minced garlic and let that get fragrant (about 30 seconds). I added in 3 tablespoons of flour and stirred it until the onions were all coated and the flour lightly browned.

Then I added the broths (3/4 cup chicken stock and 3/4 cup beef stock) again scrapping the bottom of the pot. Next came 1 1/2 cups of the beer, a bundle of 4 sprigs of thyme tied with kitchen twine (for easy removal) two bay leaves and a tablespoon of cider vinegar. I stirred that all together, increased the heat to medium high and brought it to a full simmer. I put on the top and put the Dutch oven in my preheated (300 degrees) oven and let it cook for 2 hours (or until a fork inserted into the beef met little resistance.

When the two hours were up, I made some wide egg noodles and, after draining them, added some butter, salt and chopped parsley. I removed the bay leaves and the thyme bundle from the stew, tasted it and added a little salt and pepper. I spooned the stew over the egg noodles and ate it! It had a nice, hearty flavor to it. Very good!

It's getting late, so I think I'll just put the food away, but leave the clean-up for the morning. I went and watched my Sunday night shows. The one at 10:00 PM was a rerun, so I just turned it off and went to sleep.

photo

Belgian Beer, with a cork and wire top!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

photo

My Hoover "Flair" standing in the living room

Saturday's Snow and Sauces

I remembered late last night to fill the coffee pot and set it on the timer, so I woke up at 7:00 to the smell of fresh coffee for a change. And, it was good! That was breakfast.

I checked outside and it was snowing, but just a little. I checked the Weather Channel and they are still saying just 1-3 inches for me (it looks like it is snowing in Detroit, Mt. Clemens and Port Huron, but I am just on the western edge of the clouds!)

I sat down and finalized my grocery list, then hopped in the shower and got ready to roll. I started my errands just after 10:00 AM. I went to Kroger's for my groceries, Westborn Market for my veggies and fresh herbs and then stopped at the Wine Palace. I need two obscure items for this weekend's menus, and if anybody would have them, they would. And, they did!

So, I picked up some Maderia (for a sauce tonight) and some Belgium beer, Chimay Peres Trappistes Ale Premier (a 25.4 ounce bottle) for tomorrow's dinner. The beer has been made in Belgium by Trappist monks since 1862, BTW.

But, back to the weather. By the time I got out of Kroger's, the wind had picked up tremendously. In fact, it cut like a knife and took your breath away. It's still snowing a little, but the wind is the real problem!

I got back home just after noon and by 1:00 PM, I had the old items in the fridge discarded, all the groceries put away and the bird feeder and suet cage refilled. I finished the tuna salad for my lunch. I threw the white kitchen towels and the bath towel, hand towel and bath map from my bathroom into the washer. I grabbed my book and took a break on the couch.

I got tired of that, but not ambitious enough to "do" something, (hey, I got all weekend, right?) so I moved into the bedroom and watched a movie. Then I watched Jamie Oliver's taped show from this morning. Then I started something else (don't remember what) but dozed off. I woke up about 30 minutes later and lay there; debating if that was really enough time to call it a "nap".

Now, my friend, B___, insists that a 20-30 minute nap is optimum for rejuvenating the body and soul. But I like the one hour plus naps that allow me to stay up later at night. Not sure which is "correct" but I guess I took one of "his" naps, today.

One nice thing happened while I was asleep: the sun came out! It's streaming in all the west windows and making the fresh snow glow. Speaking of snow, it's all over, here, and I doubt we got more than an inch, all told. We definitely dodged the bullet on this storm.

So, now it's 7:00 PM and time for dinner. This will truly be one of the Captain's recipes as it takes its inspiration from about four different recipes (or we will say it's the bastard child of four recipes, depending on how it turns out, lol!).

I started off by melting two tablespoons of my reserved bacon fat in my biggest cast iron skillet (pork fat rules, baby!) I took the four bone-in thin pork chops I'd thawed and hit both sides of them with house seasoning. Then, I seared them, two at a time in the skillet. When they were each done on both sides, I piled them all back in the skillet and put them in a preheated (350 degrees F) oven for another 8 minutes to finish.

Meanwhile, I heated two tablespoons of butter in a non-stick skillet. I added one whole shallot, minced fine. When they were about done, I added 1/2 pound of sliced fresh mushrooms (remember I said shallots and mushrooms were best friends). I sliced the mushrooms rather large, so they wouldn't fall apart. When I thought they were about done, I added 1/4 cup of the Maderia, a good splash of heavy whipping cream and two tablespoons of fines herbes (you can buy it - I did - but its equal parts of chopped chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon). I let that all simmer and get happy while I heated up the leftover mashed potatoes with scallions (from last weekend) in the microwave.

Finally, I plated the dish: a mound of mashed potatoes in the middle with a pork chop leaning up against it. I drizzled 1/4 of the sauce on both, then dug in (hungry enough to forget taking a photo for the Blog). Result? Pork chop was perfect! Nice sear and inside was moist. The potatoes were still excellent. And the sauce? Well, I'll admit I was disappointed it wasn't "bolder" but it really did have a nice, subtle flavor.

I finished the evening by watching the boxing on HBO and I did stay up until it ended around midnight.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Here we go, again... (maybe)

Well, it is still all up in the air about this weekend's snowfall. The National Weather Service had issued a Severe Weather Alert late Thursday, but withdrew it by Friday morning. Friday night, it's back in place. There's a big storm to our east, with the "Low" centered out in the Atlantic. If it stays there, we get 1-3 inches of snow. If it moves a bit west, we get clobbered (either 3-5 or 8-14 inches) I guess we will see...

When I got home and in the garage, I swept the garage floor with the push broom to get some of the melted snow out. I carefully walked out to the road (I still have a sh*t load of snow in the drive, you see) and removed two big chunks of frozen snow/ice/gravel out of the road that I encountered (read that as "hit") driving up to the mailbox.

I gave the cats their treats and changed clothes. I put some rotini pasta on to cook for tonight's dinner. Since I need 4 cups cooked pasta, and I know with the shorter, thicker pastas (elbow, rotini, etc.) 1/2 cup of raw is equal to 1 cup cooked, I put in 2 cups of raw pasta to cook for seven minutes (al dente).

When that was done and drained, it went into the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, I anxiously watched the local news for the weather reports. Damn! They still don't seem to know what's gonna happen. However, it's still not snowing here, so I guess that's a good sign it's missing us.

I read my book on the couch, waiting for the pasta to cool. Around 7:00 (and hungry) I moved back to the kitchen and started dinner. I wanted something light, so I am making a simple tuna salad. I might be making this up, but I seem to remember that when Lu used to make them, she would also put the cans of tuna in the fridge for a while. But, it's too late for that memory to help. So, here's what I did do:

I opened and drained two regular cans of tuna. The tuna went into a mixing bowl and the cans were presented to the cats (one each) on the kitchen floor. Then I added a cup of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of dried thyme, four cups of cooked rotini, four ribs of celery (diced medium for crunch) and two hardboiled eggs, run through the egg slicer. I stirred all that together and put it back in the fridge to cool while I worked on the critical last step.

[Carla, don't read this part] I took 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas and steamed them for just under two minutes, so they were slightly cooked, but still chewy (al dente, again, come to think of it, lol!) I ran cold water over them to stop the cooking and then added them to the salad and put it back in the fridge for an hour or so.

I went back to the couch and the book, until it was time for the Friday Night Fights. Then I seasoned my salad with salt and pepper to taste, filled a big bowl and went off to watch TV (there was an excellent main event that went the full 12 rounds and was very close so, even though my guy, Mashaba, didn't win, I was happy!)

I ate a lot of the salad, but there was a lot left and I had no clean container to put it in the fridge, so I tried a trick I saw. I got a big piece of Saran Wrap and pressed the plastic wrap right down on top the salad to keep it from drying out. The bowl went back in the fridge and I went to sleep (still no snow).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thursday's Tale

Before I forget, a long time reader reminded me off-line that I had taken one morning supply of meds to work, just in case I ever did forget to take my morning medicine. As I told him, yes, I did and I even remembered that. But, when I took out the pill container, I found that two of the prescriptions were the old medicine that my new doctor had changed. So, I figured taking them would not really help and might be counterproductive. I did, however, take that the pill holder back home and refilled it tonight with my actual medicine for the next time, if it ever happens again.

And, another thing I keep forgetting to mention, did you ever see a cat chase its own tail? I've see dogs do it, but never a cat. But, Caley does it, all the time when she's bored. It's the damnedest thing. She spins around until she catches it, bites it, then jumps up (surprised), runs, lies down and watches her tail until she twitches it, then the whole thing starts all over again. Ridiculous!

So, anyway, I got home and relaxed a bit. Then I started thinking about dinner. I checked the fridge and the only leftovers I have is that spinach-stuffed chicken, which I wasn't fond of. I thought about it (could I scrape off the filling, warm it up, cover it with barbeque sauce and eat it?) but decided it wasn't worth the effort. But, I do still have some of the ham and the pepper-jack cheese that was part of the filling left. Hmmm... Let me think...

I ended up taking 6 slices of the buttermilk bread and buttering them. On the inside, I put some stone ground mustard. I divided the ham and cheese into three piles and put that on as well. Then I grilled each of them in my smaller, non-stick pan. I do it on medium, covered with my domed sauce pan lid (helps to melt the cheese) for exactly two minutes a side.

Result? Nice taste, but pepper-jack cheese, when melted, is stringing, not gooey like American. The sandwiches were a bit more difficult to eat neatly, but the cats didn't seem to mind.

I ate two of them with dill pickles while watching more of my America's test kitchen CDs. Next, I switched to a taped "No Reservations" and then ended up reading until 10:00 PM. I shut off the lights and went to sleep.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Storm's Aftermath...

The roads weren't even salted when I left for work. I did get out of the driveway okay, so it was just a matter of trudging along in the two-tracks of snow until I got to work. It did take me about three times as long, though.

Throughout the day, my knee and back got progressively worse. At first I thought it was the cold and the humidity. Then I finally realized I'd forgotten to take my medicine in the morning. Hey, it doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

After last night's dinner, I decided to take it a little easy. So, my dinner was some cottage cheese with fresh chives and then I cored and cooked a head of cauliflower. I ate about 1/3 of that with just butter and salt.

I did the Wednesday laundry and did watch some TV, but mostly read until bedtime.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Snow Update

When I left for work this morning, I checked the snow depth in the driveway. San Jose got just over 6 1/2 inches of snow overnight.

Waiting for the Snow

Well, here we are in March and with yet another Severe Weather Alert! We are supposed to get possible freezing rain and then a ton of snow overnight. So, first thing I did when I got home was to refill the bird feeder and the suet cage so when the birds and squirrels can come out again, they will have something to eat.

I changed clothes and relaxed for a while, then started on my own dinner. I have a recipe I want to try I saw on Everyday Italian (a Food Network show staring Giada De Laurentiis). I t called for those little purple fingerling potatoes, which I don't have. So I am substituting small Yukon Gold potatoes. I peeled the potatoes and used the mandoline to cut them into 1/16 inch thick slices (thick not used here as a description, as they were like, wafer thin).

Then I took two thawed tilapia filets and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I topped each of the filets with enough slices of potatoes to completely cover them, overlapping them like shingles. I topped the potato slices with more salt and pepper and fresh, finely minced rosemary leaves.

I put my oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat and added some olive oil and butter. When the butter was melted, I added the fish, potato side down (it looked daunting, but was rather simple).I let the potatoes brown for just a bit and then put the pan in a preheated 375 degree oven for 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, I peeled the parsnips and cut them up. I put them onto boil while I made up my chive oil. I took 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of minced chives (I snipped them with scissors), one tablespoon fresh, finely minced rosemary leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, put it all in a bowl and whisked it up.

I drained the parsnips, adding butter and fresh chopped parsley. I plated the fish potato side up and drizzled the fish with the chive oil. And that, along with my homemade coleslaw was dinner and it was excellent! I would definitely recommend this dish!

I watched a movie until about 10:00 PM. I tried to find some election results, but ended up falling asleep before learning who won.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Laid Back Monday

After the weekend's efforts, I decided to take Monday night off! I stopped at Meijer's on the way home and got three big freezer containers to hold the leftover lasagna. I hand washed them when I got home and let them air dry.

I called Luanne for her birthday (Tuesday) knowing they usually go somewhere to celebrate. Tomorrow night she's having her birthday dinner at Stacey's family (Sadie's daughter, son in law and granddaughter). No new goat births on the farm, but spring is already in progress there with the daffodils already up and starting to bloom. I did remember to pass along your birthday wishes, Mom!

I put most of the lasagna in the containers, labeled them and set them in the freezer. What remained I plated and warmed in the microwave. I put the big lasagna pan in the sink to soak. Then I went in to watch TV. I dozed off until 11:30 PM, switched off the TV and turned to reading and then sleep.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday and Buon Giorno

I woke up Sunday morning at 7:15 AM and put on a pot of coffee. I wasn't going to do breakfast, but then I remembered the 3/4 pound of bacon that's sitting in the fridge I need to use soon. So, I turned the oven to 400 degrees F and got out my cookie sheet and rack. I lined the cookie sheet with tinfoil (for easy clean-up) and put in the rack. The bacon went on, strip by strip, the "meaty" part of each strip being slightly covered by the "fatty" part of the next strip. This gives you chewy bacon (which I like) but just let each strip stand alone if you prefer more crunchy bacon. Then I liberally applied fresh ground black pepper (I love bacon with black pepper!) and, when the "preheated" signal went off, I put the pan in the oven for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up the few remaining pots from last night's dinner. I am contemplating today's main course, Sunday dinner: Three Cheese Lasagna with Meat Sauce. I had it all planned yesterday, but two things happened. First, the recipe I settled on contained spinach and, after last night's dinner, I am not sure I want to taste spinach again for a while (even though I do have leftover Spinach Stuffed Chicken to deal with, lol!) Second, I received the Cook's Illustrated magazine in the mail yesterday.

Cooks Illustrated is a magazine put out by the same folks who do the show "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS stations. It has NO advertisements and hundreds of beautiful line drawings, rather than photographs. They take either a theme (say roasted chicken or salmon) or a product (orange juice or serrated knives, for example) and test them, giving you their opinion of the best product or recipe.

Anyway, in this month's magazine (well, actually it comes every two months, but I'm not sure how to write that) was an article about a simple Italian meat sauce. It's a little more complicated and has fewer ingredients, so I am thinking of combining the two (leaving out the damn spinach!)

But, now the bacon's done. BTW, this is the easiest way to make bacon. And, cleanup's a cinch! If you save bacon fat (like I do) just take off the rack, pour the grease into a coffee cup and put it in the fridge. Let the remaining (or all of it, if you don't want to save it) grease harden a bit, then just crumble up the tin foil and throw it away. No muss, no fuss! Since I hadn't planned on breakfast, I am not bothering with eggs or anything. I just made two pieces of toast, applied mayonnaise, added three strips of bacon (broken in half) and ate my sandwich. The rest of the bacon went into a baggie and then the fridge, the bacon grease got saved and my tummy is happy.
Okay, so I gotta tell ya, I am sick and tired of cat hair! In spite of brushing Caley almost every day, I still find it on my clothes at work, in my nose when I wake up, on the couches and chairs, etc. So, today is a total house cleaning (my back be damned!)

All of the throws from the chairs in the living room went into the dryer with a fabric softener on "Fluff" to try and pull the hair off. The back room, kitchen and both bathrooms were swept, then wet-mopped. The living room and bedroom dusted and the floors were run over with the electric sweeper, and then the dust mop, sprayed with Endust. The dust mop got shaken off every few minutes on the front porch (a little chilly as I am in my shorts, T-shirt and slippers). Since I knew what efforts I would be putting forth, my shave and shower will come afterwards, as I am sweating like a pig. I did, of course, brush my teeth first thing this morning. Hey, I may be practical, but I'm not gross!

The floors now dry; I moved the chairs, the rolling butcher block and the trash basket back into the kitchen from the living room and finished the living room at about 1:00 PM. The throw rugs in the kitchen and main bath, along with all the kitchen towels and the dry dust mop head (I wash it, but let it air-dry or the plastic cracks, I found) went into the washer. Then I washed down the main bath (remember, I keep that until last so I always can use a bathroom, if necessary, lol!) At 1:40 PM, I decided I was finished and it was time for a shower (I skipped the shave). Nice and clean again, I laid down for a nap, not really expecting to fall asleep. But I did and woke up at 4:00.

Now, onto dinner! I won't bore you with all details, but it did involve using my food processor, so, as long as I had to clean it anyway, I went ahead and made some more sweet and spicy coleslaw, first.

So, the only additions I made to the Cooks Illustrated recipe was to add in two hot Italian sausages, with the casing removed, 1/4 cup of finely shredded carrots and 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil. I also didn't have a big can of crushed tomatoes, but I did have one of whole tomatoes, so I used that after squishing each tomato with my hand. Sure, I could have used the food processor or even a blender, but that's fun! When it was all done simmering, I checked for season and it was perfect! I'm not kidding, either!!

The problem I had was the size of my lasagna pan. Most recipes call for a 9x13x2 inch glass dish, and I don't have one. The only rectangular glass dish I have is smaller, maybe 8x12x1 1/2. Then, I do have a stainless steel lasagna pan, but it's huge (and doubles as a roaster). But, that's all I have to use, so I did. Why is that important? Because this uses seven lasagna noodles instead of the usual five, which means that the layers are thinner than I would like, when using the normal amounts of meat sauce and cheeses.

Another problem is that I should have brought the ricotta cheese to room temperature, as when I tried to spread it, it was very difficult.

So, when all is said and done, I ended up with a very good tasting lasagna, albeit a little shorter than I would have liked, with an occasional thicker bite of ricotta cheese. So, I'd give it an "A" on taste, but just a "C+" on presentation.

I cleaned up all the pots and pans (yes, I still boil the noodles first, no matter what anybody says!) and then wandered in to watch my Sunday shows. I was amazed that the Extreme Makeover, Home Edition house shown tonight was built in Farmville, Virginia! Why is that so unusual? Because I've been in Farmville! It was about 7 miles from where Luanne lived when she first moved to Virginia. This is the second time they've built a house in a town I've been to (the first was Armada, Michigan)

I finished watching Iron Chef America at 11:00 PM and went to sleep.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Another Road Trip Saturday

I woke up at 6:00 AM but got up at 7:00. I warmed up yesterday's coffee and posted on the Blog. Then I finalized the weekend dinners and did a quick check to see what I would be missing, ingredient-wise. It made a short list of items I need to pick up this morning. I debated about breakfast and decided another cup of coffee would work just fine. I drank it in the living room, reading my book and listening to WCSX's Saturday Morning, Over Easy show. I posted a favorite Bruce Springsteen song. I love that line, "You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright." (I might think that, but I'd never have the balls to say it, much less write it in a song!)

I finished the book, so I shaved and showered. Then, I was off on my few errands. I went to Meijer's for some things, then Westborn for herbs and parsnips (fresh, with the tops still on them). I had an odd conversation at the checkout with the older gentleman behind me who asked (I thought) about the parsnips. He said he never realized you could eat the roots. I thought, "How strange!" but said, "Oh, no! They are delicious!" The checkout girl (in her teens) said, "I've never eaten parsnips." I said to both of them, "Oh, you should try them! They have a sweet, almost nutty flavor." The guy said, "How do you cook them?" I said, "Just like carrots. Peel them, slice and boil them and add a little butter and salt and they are excellent!" And then he said, "And, you can still use the tops?" Puzzled, I said, "Ah, no... I don't think you can eat the tops." He said, "Don't be silly! Everybody eats parsley!" I said, "No, this isn't parsley, its parsnips." He said, "Oh, I thought that was parsley." I looked and, sure enough, parsnip tops resemble flat leaf parsley.

Then I went to the library, dropped off four of my five books and got five more. Then, I went back home. I put away the items that had to be refrigerated, stuck the herbs (basil and chives) in separate glasses of water and loaded the car for New Baltimore and my Mom's house. I left about 11:45 AM.

No problems on the freeway, just a LOT of glare from the sun on the snow. But, my new (well, month-old) Polaroid clip-ons took care of that. I got to Mom's just before 1:00 PM. I said "Hi" to her and Cora and then showed them my goodies: a nice big frozen container of my personal beef stew and about six fat dumplings, another one with two big stuffed green peppers in my special tomato sauce and a four cup container of my potato soup. Mom said, "Now, is that's Jake's potato soup recipe?"

I said, "Ah, um, no, Mom. It was a weekday night and I wanted potato soup, but didn't have a lot of time, so I just made my own recipe." She just said, "Oh..." Long time readers may remember that I brought her Jake's potato soup in the rehab center, but somebody ate it before she got to taste it. Now, I wish I hadn't bragged it up so much. The main difference is that I boil my potatoes in the broth (like most everybody else on the freakin' planet) but Jake oven-roasts his first. Note to Jake: Make more potato soup or your leek soup (beloved by both your Mom and Sadie, as well as myself) save me four cups for Mom and I'll run it out there. This is getting embarrassing!

They kept the stew out for dinner tonight and the rest went into the fridge to slowly thaw. Mom mentioned that, since she doesn't have mail service or even stamps anymore and she can't hear well on the phone, she wasn't sure how she would tell Luanne happy birthday on this Tuesday. So, I told her I would pass it along for her (and just did!) We sat and chatted until sometime after 2:00, when I decided it was time to leave for home.

I was zipping along down I-94 in downtown Detroit when, just before I-75, everybody started standing on the brakes. I knew they were working on I-75, but I had only about 30 seconds to decide: So, I pulled off onto I-75 South. I got more and more worried as the lanes were successively closed off by our famous Michigan orange barrels. But, the gods were smiling on me and the last lane ended (and I do mean "ended") at I-96 (exactly where I needed to be). I turned back on the cruise control, pegged it at 79 MPH and headed home.

I got home at 3:35 PM, changed clothes, took my last container of beef stew, and heated it up in the microwave. While that was warming, I filled in the Blog. At 4:00 PM I ate my breakfast/lunch. Then I set the alarm and lay down to take a nap. The alarm woke me exactly at 6:15 PM. I got up just in time to see a blazing red and yellow mixture of clouds and sun as the sun set directly behind the wall in my back yard.

I got to work on tonight's dinner: Spinach Stuffed Chicken. Now, I have seen many variations of this dish. The more classic ones involve prosciutto, ricotta cheese and spinach rolled up in flattened chicken breasts. Another one is to butterfly the breast and stuff them with ham or, again prociutto, ricotta or even feta cheese and then wrap the filled breast tight with bacon. Mine is a little more modern, using ham and Monterey Pepper-Jack cheese, as I thought the bite of the cheese would kick it up a notch. So, here's what I did:

I bought three boneless, skinless chicken breasts (note that the recipe calls for six breasts, but that's way too much for just me!). I put each between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Working from the center to the edges, I pounded them lightly with my rolling pin (I don't have a meat mallet) to 1/8-inch thickness. After removing the plastic wrap, I sprinkled the chicken lightly with black pepper.

I had thawed a box of frozen chopped spinach. I put it in a kitchen towel and firmly squeezed the spinach until well drained and almost dry. In a small bowl, I combined 1/2 of the spinach and one slightly scrambled egg, saving the remaining chopped spinach for the Saut�ed Spinach Cream Sauce. Again, please remember, this recipe is for six breasts, so half the spinach filling got tossed.

To make each roll, I spooned about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture onto each chicken piece, spreading evenly over chicken. I topped that with a piece of thin-sliced deli ham. I cut the squares of pepper-jack cheese in half and put the cheese down the middle. I folded in the sides and rolled it up, pressing the edges to seal. I secured each roll with wooden toothpicks. The rolls went, seam side down, into a 9x9x2-inch glass baking dish (I would have used a 13x9x2 dish for all six, BTW), and drizzled them with two tablespoons of melted butter. That went into a preheated 375 degrees F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F internal temperature).

To make the Spinach Cream Sauce, I melted two tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. I added the remaining chopped spinach, cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. I added two tablespoons whipping cream, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I cooked and stirred that for another 30 seconds or so (until heated through).

Meanwhile, I also made mashed potatoes, using Yukon Gold potatoes with the skins on. I had one bunch of scallions that were starting to go south on me, so I cleaned them up, sliced them thin and added them to the drained potatoes. I warmed the remaining whipping cream (from a little 8-ounce container) and some butter and added that to the potatoes, then mashed. Since I wasn't that hungry (at 8:00 PM - I shouldn't have eaten breakfast/lunch so late, I guess) everything went into the oven on "Warm," waiting on me.

I read my book until 9:00 PM when I switched to HBO, looking for some boxing. Damn! None on tonight! But, there was a George Carlin Comedy Special that was pretty funny. Finally, I'm hungry. So, I sliced each roll into threes, plated them and topped them with the Spinach Cream Sauce; added some potatoes and ate dinner.

I have to say I am not as impressed with the chicken as I'd hope to be. Probably my fault, as I did tend to overload it with the spinach during construction (not really wanting to "waste" too much). But the end result was the other flavors got lost. If and when I make this again, I'll double the ham and the cheese and cut the spinach in half. On the other hand, the potatoes, which were rather thrown together, were fantastic! Thick and creamy, with just enough green onion to flavor it, but not enough to overwhelm the dish. Excellent. So, one out of two ain't bad!

After the comedy special, I read my book until 11:30 PM when I finished this post, along with two pictures I'd taken earlier and now I'm going to sleep.